Analyzing The Few NHL Trades

There were not many NHL trades this time around. Reading why, most general managers blame the salary cap and the admission of Las Vegas and its expansion draft. I will not analyze every trade but some of the more significant ones.

1. Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington by St. Louis

This was the big blockbuster trade. I have read that Alexander Ovechkin had been pressuring General Manager Brian MacLellan to do something significant and he obliged but Ovechkin may be signing his own death warrant and that of coach Barry Trotz in Washington if this does not work. Ovechkin has never been able to lift ANY of his teams (no matter who coaches them), Washington or Russia to the championship level in significant tournaments. The latest flop was Russia making the semi-finals in the World Cup where Canada fired 47 shots at overworked, heroic goaltender Sergi Bobrovsky.

Washington has yet to make the Eastern Conference Final during the Ovechkin era, never mind winning the Stanley Cup. Last year they added T J Oshie and ran away with the President’s Trophy but still flopped in the playoffs. Now they have added Shattenkirk but is it enough? There are formidable opponents who know how to win it all, Pittsburgh and Chicago lurking, plus the danger of any improved teams. It was a bold and brave trade for MacLellan to make, a firm commitment that Washington wants to be a champion. The heat is off MacLellan. He has done his best at the trade deadline. But now the heat is really on Ovechkin and Trotz. If there were few excuses last year, there are none now. Washington MUST win at least two playoff rounds. And if they do not, it may be time to recognize that Ovechkin is not what he has been billed to be, keep Shattenkirk, and the next blockbuster Washington trade will involve him.

As for St. Louis, it seemed that last year they had finally made the breakthrough that Washington had failed to do by making the Western Conference Final. Now all they needed to do was add one or two more significant players to get them over the final hump. Instead they lost significant talent in the off season, fired coach Ken Hitchcock, and have now traded Shattenkirk in the prime of his career. They have gone back to where they were, in a rebuilding situation. Obviously they did not have much faith in the team they built last year that did so well. How committed are they to building a championship team?

2. Johnny Oduya from Dallas to Chicago

If the pattern remains true, Chicago wins the Stanley Cup every other year. Chicago is currently on a five game winning streak including a decisive victory over defending champion Pittsburgh. By reacquiring Oduya from Dallas, one of the most disappointing teams this season, Chicago has added significant depth to its defense and has served notice that it intends win the Stanley Cup again this season. Despite Minnesota’s improvement, Chicago is still the team to beat in the Western Conference.

It is not much of a trade for Dallas, which still has to pay part of Oduya’s salary and only gets small financial relief. It is an admission that the team has to be rebuilt and that more changes will be coming in the off season.

3. Ben Bishop from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles

A swap of goaltenders, Ben Bishop for Peter Budaj. I rate this as a clear win for Tampa Bay and secondarily for Budaj. Tampa Bay has Andrei Vasilevskiy whom the Lightning believes will be their goaltender of the future and now Budaj who had done an admirable job filling in for Jonathan Quick. Bishop was a number one goaltender but had an unfortunate knack of getting injured at key moments when Tampa Bay needed him most. And when Steve Stamkos got injured earlier this year, the team failed to rally and Bishop’s goaltending has proved to be insufficient to keep Tampa Bay in a playoff spot. Now they have got rid of his large salary and are giving Budaj a chance to battle Vasilevkiy to become Tampa Bay’s number one goaltender.

It is hard to see what Los Angeles gains by this trade. They have got Jonathan Quick back and will undoubtably use him for most of the games during the rest of the season and probably all the playoff games if they make it. Why do you want to pay a large salary to a number one goaltender like Bishop to sit on the bench? The Kings must think that Quick is brittle and will get injured again so they needed some insurance. Right now they are battling the St. Louis Blues for the last playoff spot. But the Blues did Los Angeles far more of a favor by trading Kevin Shattenkirk and admitting they were in rebuilding mode than Los Angeles did by getting Bishop. All this to get the last playoff position in the Western Conference. If teams have money to throw around, Los Angeles is doing it.

4. Jerome Iginla from Colorado to Los Angeles

Again I have to give Colorado the edge over Los Angeles. Iginla is a great player but he is 39 and well past his prime. In the long term Colorado is happy to be rid of his large salary. This is merely a short term deal for Los Angeles to get that last playoff position based on the logic that Iginla played so well for coach Darryl Sutter when they were together in Calgary. He can probably help Los Angeles make the playoffs but again it comes across like a deal made by a franchise with money to burn. For both the Bishop and Iginla deals, Los Angeles had better make the playoffs and get its money back in playoff revenue or else they have wasted a lot of money for nothing.

 
In other trades:

Detroit after being successful for so long began dumping salaries to clear the way to build a new successful era. So did Dallas and New Jersey. Toronto and Columbus added some experienced players to help them either make a playoff run or cope with the pressures of the playoffs. Florida still believes they can make the playoffs by acquiring Thomas Vanek. So does Boston which got Drew Stafford from Winnipeg. The Flyers got Valtteri Filppula from Tampa Bay. Something has to give between Toronto, Florida, Philadelphia, and Boston. Add in Ottawa, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay who are all battling for the last three playoff spots and some of these teams are going to be disappointed with the trades they made. But now these are the final rosters that are going to be competing for the playoffs. The outcome and the verdict begins this evening.

NHL 2016-17 Season Third Quarter Report

The majority of the teams have now reached the 60 game mark and again the pattern of wins and losses changed from the second quarter. Mostly it reverted back to what occurred in the first quarter: Two steps forward, one back, two steps back, one forward, etc. Gone was the dramatic long winning streaks that marked the second quarter. Some teams like Chicago, New York Rangers, St. Louis, and Washington managed to put together modest winning streaks of 5-6 games. What else was notable during the third part of the current season?

Bloodshed

Namely coaches’ blood. Jack Capuano of the New York Islanders, Ken Hitchcock (who was going to retire from coaching anyway at the end of this season) of the St. Louis Blues, Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins, and Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens joined Gerard Gallant of the Florida Panthers who was fired in the first quarter of the season on the unemployed list. But the Canadiens immediately gave Julien his old coaching job back after ten years in Boston.

Out Of The Picture

Probably it can be safely said that the Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, and Detroit Redwings have joined the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes as being out of the playoff picture for this season unless they start one of those dramatic long winning streaks that occurred in the second quarter.

Squandered

1. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers had a ten game winning streak in the second quarter and seemed comfortably assured of a playoff spot in the middle of the Eastern Conference. But they played so badly during the third quarter that they have tumbled out of a playoff position.

2. Montreal Canadiens

Montreal played so well during the first quarter that they were comfortably ranked as one of the “big 5″ teams in the Eastern Conference, along with Washington, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, and Columbus. But they have played so poorly since then that they fired their coach and tumbled down to one of the bottom four playoff positions. If they do not rally around new coach Claude Julien, and some of their pursuers get hot during the last quarter, incredibly they could miss the playoffs again just like last year.

Hung In

Ottawa is still holding a playoff position in spite of the long absence of number one goaltender Craig Anderson, and the Los Angeles Kings are just out of a playoff spot and now have number one goaltender Jonathan Quick back.

On The Rebound

At one time the New York Islanders looked like the first Eastern Conference team to be declared out of the playoff picture. But they have played so well since their poor start that they now have a real chance to make the playoffs. The Islanders also got some good news when star forward John Tavares declared that he wanted to remain an Islander. Now if only they could get some good news about a new, larger arena being constructed in Queens, so that they can get out of the tiny Barclay’s Center, the only NHL arena that has obstructed view seats…

Speaking About Arenas

Those loveable Arizona Coyotes announced that host suburb Glendale was so sick of them that they would rather have an arena without a team than see a Coyote uniform for much longer. So the Coyotes tried to move across Phoenix town to the suburb of Tempe into a projected new third-smallest arena in the NHL. But the joyful news of this “progress” was terminated when Tempe decided that they did not want the Coyotes either. So now the Coyotes are unwanted on both the east and west side of Phoenix. Since then they have denied that they were seen flirting with both Seattle and Portland. Stay tuned for the next episode.

On a less hilarious note, Detroit will be getting a new arena next year and there is talk of building new arenas in Calgary and Ottawa.

Breathing Easier

If you see a happy hockey player with a smile who is no longer playing with a bag over his head, it is P. K. Subban of the Nashville Predators. Subban had been singled out by Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin as the main culprit for the collapse of Montreal last year when Carey Price got hurt and traded Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber. By the end of the second quarter of this season, Montreal was at the top of the Eastern Conference, Weber was thriving, Subban got hurt, and there was a real chance that Nashville might not even make the playoffs. But since then Montreal tumbled down the charts while Nashville rose. Incredibly Subban may get the last laugh, something nobody would have dreamed of only two months ago.

Sad Times

The Detroit Redwings have lost their greatest player Gordie Howe, and owner Mike Ilitch who played a key role in the rebirth of good hockey in Detroit in less than one year. Boston Bruins lost legendary star Milt Schmidt and fired the coach who had the most victories in Bruin history, Claude Julien.

All Quiet On The Quebec City Front...

There is still no news about whether Commissioner Gary Bettman has found a suitable owner for a new Quebec City team instead of the unwanted Pierre Karl Peladeau.

And The Olympics

The NHL has still not decided about participating in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. Several NHL players have declared that they will play there anyway whether the NHL participates or not.

Coming Up

The Great Trade Deadline and the home stretch.

What The Canadian Census Means For NHL Expansion Part 2

In part 1 of this series on the results of the new Canadian census as far as its effects on the NHL (and CFL) are concerned, the positive results are clear. If suitable arenas and owners can be found, the NHL could add second Toronto, second Montreal, Quebec City, and Hamilton franchises right now. But are there any other things that can be discerned from the results? This part probes a little deeper into possible NHL consequences including new franchises, arenas, etc.

Nothing has changed

Before the 2016 census, the greater Toronto area could have welcomed back a returned Toronto Toros (WHA) if another arena could be built and a suitable owner found. The new census merely confirms it. Toronto, Chicago, and the California bay area are North American metropolitan areas that could probably support a second NHL franchise just like Los Angeles and New York.

Winners

1. Montreal

Metropolitan Montreal has cracked the 4 million barrier which should be proof enough that it has joined the above three metropolitan areas that could support a second NHL franchise. Build a new arena, find a suitable owner and bring back the Montreal Maroons.

2. Calgary

No large Canadian city is enjoying the rate of growth that Calgary is experiencing right now. It has surpassed Ottawa as Canada’s 4th largest city and is pulling away from both Ottawa and Edmonton, its closest rivals. It is too early to consider it as a challenger to Vancouver as Canada’s 3rd largest city but it is on the distant horizon if this rate of growth continues. The real significance of this growth is not for another NHL franchise but for a new arena to replace the Saddledome. “Calgary Next” is on the table right now. Since the city is growing so quickly, NHL tickets will become a hot commodity, and a new arena should be in the 19-20,000+ range for seating. “Calgary Next” also includes a new domed stadium for the CFL Stampeders. And Calgary is big enough and is growing fast enough to also consider getting an NBA team and a MLB franchise before making a final decision on both an arena and stadium.

3. Quebec City

Metropolitan Quebec passed the 800,000 mark and with its new Videotron arena, it is the leading Canadian city to get Canada’s 8th NHL franchise. Unfortunately it has not been able to resolve the ownership factor which includes racist issues. Find a suitable owner and Quebec gets the Nordiques back.

4. Winnipeg

After being in the doldrums, metropolitan Winnipeg is now nearly 780,000. That’s good news for the Jets who need a larger market to sell more tickets and merchandise. But the old Winnipeg arena which was around in 1980 when the Jets joined the NHL was only 15,000 seats for a population of around 500,000. The new Winnipeg arena which was designed for a minor league franchise seats the same 15,000. With a population that is now over 50% larger, when is the size of the Winnipeg arena going to become an active issue and a new, larger arena built?

5. Hamilton

Compared to the growth of Winnipeg and Quebec, metropolitan Hamilton’s growth to 750,000 is disappointing. But since the Hamilton market also includes the cities of Kitchener, Burlington, Oakville, Guelph, London, St. Catharines, etc., Hamilton like Quebec could be awarded an NHL team right now. The Hamilton arena has over 17,000 seats and the city is willing to spend $50 million to upgrade the arena to 18,500. Unfortunately the large expansion fee and additional financial compensation to Toronto and Buffalo is a deterrent to investors. Show some generosity and get this city into the NHL as soon as possible.

6. Kitchener

Metropolitan Kitchener including Waterloo and Cambridge has clearly established itself as Canada’s 10th largest city. It passed the 500,000 mark during the latest census. The longer Hamilton and Toronto remain without a team, the more a rival Kitchener becomes for a second or third southern Ontario NHL franchise.

7. Oshawa

Perhaps it maybe too early to consider Oshawa for an NHL franchise with a metropolitan population of near 380,000 but putting the third southern Ontario franchise on the east side of Toronto is a feasible option. Oshawa is one of the fastest growing smaller cities in Canada. Actually the idea has been raised before, decades ago when the small town of Port Hope was considered. It may seem laughable but building a new arena in that town as an Oshawa franchise means that no financial compensation has to be given to Toronto and Buffalo. And an Oshawa team can get fans and ticket holders from eastern Scarborough, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Peterborough, Belleville, and Kingston.

Disappointments

1. Saskatoon

It grew by more than 33,000 residents which is more than what Oshawa and Kitchener gained but it would have been better if Saskatoon had passed the 300,000 barrier which is what Statistics Canada had predicted. Nevertheless it is still one of the highest growth rates among smaller cities in Canada. Saskatchewan as a whole remains a mostly rural province. There are 9 more NHL franchises to be had for the NHL to reach the symmetrical number of 40, probably within the next 20 years. Maybe by the end of the second decade, Saskatoon will be big enough to grab the last franchise.

2. London

Recently at one time London had a population larger than Kitchener’s and they were neck and neck together in 2011. But London experienced dismal growth during the last half decade, failed to even crack the 500,000 mark and now sits nearly 30,000 behind Kitchener. London, which is farther away from Hamilton, and Toronto would make even more sense as an NHL franchise than Kitchener but it will not be close to getting one if its population growth remains in the doldrums.

3. The Maritimes

The good news is that Halifax finally passed 400,000. The bad news is that New Brunswick actually declined in population. So much for a CFL franchise based in Moncton. The Maritimes still remain the poorest region in Canada with small population growth. Putting an NHL franchise in a Maritime city remains a sentimental, romantic dream. For now, the best the Maritimes can hope for is that the NHL restores the Quebec Nordiques and that they market and pose as the Maritimes team as well. Hockey wise, the Maritimes are already bound to Quebec through its junior league and adding the four Maritime provinces to its overall market is good business sense for the owner and management of a returned NHL Quebec team.

What The Canadian Census Means For NHL Expansion (And CFL)

Nobody cares about a United States census as far as NHL expansion is concerned because there are too many large American cities without NHL hockey to count. But for Canada with its limited population, the results of the 2016 census that were released on February 1, are critical.

First the established NHL cities in terms of metropolitan population. The only change in rank is that Calgary has now jumped ahead of Ottawa and is now Canada’s 4th largest city. More importantly, Toronto is nearly 6 million and Montreal just over 4 million. So reestablishing the Toronto Toros and the Montreal Maroons again is feasible if an arena can be built and a suitable owner found.

At the secondary level, Quebec is firmly established as Canada’s 7th largest city, finally getting over 800,000 residents. It confirms that it is the logical Canadian city to get a new NHL franchise. Surprisingly, Winnipeg which had been in the doldrums in terms of population growth for some decades, has nearly kept up with Quebec’s growth and now has over 775,000 residents. But Hamilton, which was once close to both Quebec and Winnipeg, has dropped back from them both, but still showed significant growth to nearly 750,000. So a Hamilton team, especially when it is remembered that it can draw fans from significant mid-size cites like Kitchener, London, St. Catharines, and other sizeable southern Ontario towns is probably a feasible choice right now for a second new Canadian NHL franchise.

Long term? Well for a third southern Ontario team if you don’t want to choose both Hamilton and second Toronto, Kitchener leads the way followed by London, St. Catharines, and Oshawa. It would be nice to consider a Maritime team in Halifax which is finally over 400,000, but how wealthy is the Maritime region? British Columbia would likely get a second Vancouver team before it would get a Victoria franchise because the latter city does not grow very much. And the province of Saskatchewan’s growth was disappointing, though in the long term, a Saskatoon or Regina regional franchise is probably feasible.

For those who follow the CFL, the only other professional sports league with a major stake in Canada, if stadiums can be built and suitable owners found, it is a no-brainer to put a team in Quebec City and maybe try experiments in Kitchener and Halifax.

As far as NHL expansion is concerned, Quebec, Hamilton, second Toronto, and second Montreal could all be established right now. In my opinion, Quebec and Hamilton should be granted NHL teams tomorrow. They would be suitable gifts from the NHL on Canada’s 150th birthday.

As The Coyotes Play…

Taking a break from serious issues like coach firings (Boston, Montreal,  and St. Louis), the potential upcoming trade deadline of March 1, whether the NHL plays in the Olympics, and resolving the Quebec City ownership issue, we now return back to our beloved NHL soaper, “As The Coyotes Play”.

In our last episode, our beloved team, currently second last in the whole NHL and saddled with its usual bad attendance, announced that they would be moving into the third smallest arena in the NHL, ahead of only Winnipeg and the New York Islanders to be built in Tempe, Arizona, another suburb of Phoenix. This “encouraging” news came after the announcement in the second-last episode, by the Coyotes current wife, Glendale, when the city council told the team that they would rather sleep in the empty bed of a vacant arena with no tenant and that the marriage was over at last.

“Fine!” said the Coyotes, “We’ve got a new love, Tempe, and we don’t need you either.” But now in our current episode, we find that Tempe doesn’t want a lame-duck lover either and figures that spending that kind of money for a new arena is not worth it. So now the Coyotes are washed up in both the east side and west side of Phoenix. As we move to our first commercial break we end the first segment with the Coyotes publicly denying that they were seen flirting with those western hookers, Portland and Seattle.

When we return to part two of our current episode, we see three eastern beauties, Hamilton, Quebec, and Hartford weeping and consoling each other. That black hearted villain, NHL, led by the cruel Gary Bettman has forbidden any western conference NHL team to move east because it will upset the conference imbalance still further. Hamilton which tried to have a passionate love affair with the Coyotes a few years ago and was willing to spend $50 million to upgrade its arena, is particularly desolate, torn apart like Juliet from Romeo. Hamilton has also been told by two of Bettman’s evil henchmen, Toronto and Buffalo, that any attempt to rekindle that love affair will mean settling with them first to the tune of a pretty penny.

Now we turn to Quebec City, seeking a legitimate owner, after the unsuitable Pierre Karl Peladeau of would-be wooer Quebecor, made unacceptable racist remarks about NHL Board member Geoff Molson, owner of the Montreal Canadiens and also tried to obstruct the business dealings of one of Molson’s closest friends. We also see Commissioner Bettman sneaking around in the dark shadows behind the scenes, desperately searching for that acceptable French Canadian, non-racist owner who has $500 million to spend. He is also secretly probably willing for Quebec to get an existing franchise that is either having a failing marriage with its fans, or existing in a run-down arena, by relocation instead of expansion, but he remains adamant: A new wife for Quebec City by relocation must be an eastern girl. So the obvious solution for unwanted Coyotes, and love-starved Quebec cannot occur.

Finally we read that Hartford, that widowed city that lost its husband, the Whalers like Quebec and Winnipeg in the 1990s is willing to spend $250 million to upgrade its arena. Alas, despite Hartford spending all this money on a facelift to regain its attractive looks and revive its supposedly ended marriage, we cannot expect a miraculous transformation of a western Coyote into an eastern Whale for the same harsh reasons given to Quebec. Time for another commercial break.

When we return, we approach the cliff-hanging climax of this current episode. We see that new lovely dessert daughter, Las Vegas about to come to her wedding day with the man of her dreams, the Golden Knights. We see owner Bill Foley, putting down a newspaper after reading about the unhappy, unwanted situation of the Golden Knights dessert cousin, the Coyotes. Is that a look of doubt and fear on his face about his daughter’s future marriage? We cut to a close-up of Commissioner Bettman, formerly full of joy after receiving a $500 million pre-nuptial gift. Is that a look of anxiety in his eyes? The fear of having another Arizona on his hands?

Meanwhile an Arizona senator wants to introduce a bill in the state legislature to help the Coyotes build a new $395 million arena. But where? Who wants this team?

But the episode ends on a happy note. Auston Matthews, the new savior of the Toronto Maple Leafs may be the only good legacy to come out the whole Arizona Coyotes soap opera when the series is permanently canceled.

That fate could happen soon if the Coyotes don’t find a new love somewhere within Phoenix. Keep watching in the future for another exciting episode of “As The Coyotes Play”.

Get French Canadian Racism Out Of The NHL

It has gone on long enough. The issue should be faced honestly for once. Racism, whether French, English, or some other ethnic version should be eradicated from the NHL once and for all. It is hurting the game. It is hurting the fans. The thought occurred to me when I read about the hiring of Claude Julien for the second time by the Montreal Canadiens.

Julien is a good coach and I predicted that he would be back in the NHL quickly though not as fast as this and in such a surreal manner. But Julien is also of French Canadien descent and there lies the problem. He is good but is he the best coach available? As with too many choices made in Montreal Canadien and the would-be returned Quebec Nordique history, the decisions are based on race. Julien actually comes from Ontario but is acceptable to a Quebec based team because he is French Canadian.

When Scotty Bowman was coaching the Canadiens during some of their glory years, he used to complain that the Montreal press would zealously scrutinize every game roster he chose, usually on racial grounds. It is ridiculous to have to coach with that unnecessary racial pressure. The last time Montreal attempted to hire an anglophone coach, Randy Cunnyworth, he was virtually driven out of Montreal. Cunnyworth may or may not have been a good coach, but the language/racial issue may have doomed him before he coached a single game.

In contrast, I remember when that most French Canadian of Montreal goalies Jacques Plante, was acquired by that most English team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. He soon became the toast of the town in some ways BECAUSE he was French Canadian. His successor was the great French Canadian goaltender, Bernie Parent. Maurice Richard, the greatest French Canadian hockey hero ever said he had no qualms about being traded to another team. He hated being a symbol of “French Canadian nationalism”.

Ironically the two teams that suffer the most by French Canadian racism are Montreal and the hope-to-be-returned Quebec.

Montreal

General Manager Marc Bergevin may have wanted to fire coach Michel Therrien much sooner but there were no good French Canadian coaches around until the Bruins obligingly fired Julien. There may have been good English speaking coaches available who are even better coaches than Julien, but Bergevin has to consider public relations as well as coaching ability and so his choice has to be made on racial grounds.

This unnecessary scrutiny based on race means that other key positions like president, general manager, scouting, public relations, etc. have to made on racial grounds. Montreal may not be able to hire the best employees available. It has not won the Stanley Cup in 23 years. How much has racism hurt the team?

Quebec

But the city that is currently suffering the most because of racism is Quebec. For the sake of repeating it for the umpteenth time, the NHL turned down Pierre Karl Peladeau’s Quebecor bid to restore the Nordiques because he made unacceptable racial remarks about NHL Board member Geoff Molson and tried to obstruct the business activities of one of Molson friends (Forget the “official” NHL reason about imbalanced conferences and low Canadian dollar).

Now Gary Bettman has to find a suitable owner for a returned Nordiques behind the scenes. But there may not be any suitable, non-racist, rich French Canadians around who want to own an NHL team, especially with an expansion fee of $500 million.

The obvious solution is to get financial help from outside the province like Ottawa and Winnipeg have but nobody from either “English Canada” or the United States wants to step forward and invest in a Quebec City team because they fear the vengeance of French Canadian racists through an elected provincial government. I have mentioned many times that Quebec City with a proper NHL arena is a marvelous investment opportunity, a sure winner, an unquestionable money-maker, one of the NHL’s better franchises. But if a provincial government supported by racists passes legislation making it impossible to operate an NHL team owned by investors from outside Quebec, nobody will come forward to start the Nordiques again.

But the problem is deeper than the current crisis. Take away the racial issue and what could have happened? Go back to 1995 when Quebec City lost the Nordiques. Even back then, Quebec City with a proper NHL arena and a good owner would be a winner. But no rich French Canadian stepped forward to save the team and the Nordiques moved to Denver.

But with no racism, an investor(s) from outside the province might have stepped forward and solved both the ownership and arena issues. Then the future Videotron might have been built back then without a single taxpayer dollar being spent and Quebec would not have lost its team at all.

Go forward through the years when the NHL expanded and there was no proper arena and no rich French Canadian investor for Quebec City. An investor from outside the province might have come forward and Quebec could have been restored on each of these occasions. It may not have been up front, but behind the scenes, racism has been hurting Quebec City’s chances at returning to the NHL all along.

The irony is that probably the majority of Quebec Nordiques fans in the Province of Quebec are not racists at all and just want their team back to cheer for again. Probably the majority of people from “English Canada” want the Nordiques back too. But a narrow minded minority – it has happened with different things all through history – has imposed its will on what most people want, and fears, bigotry, elitism, and ignorance are winning again.

It Didn’t Take Long, Julien Is Back

I said in my previous article about Claude Julien that he would become one of the three most sought after coaches for rehiring, but the speed with which he returned to the NHL leaves me a little breathless. And to be hired by Boston’s most hated rival, Montreal -for the second time- there’s a lot of surrealism here.

It makes sense. Julien simply is a better coach than Michel Therrien who could not take either the Montreal Canadiens or the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens collapsed last year after goaltender Carey Price got injured and the players, notably P K Subban took the blame. But this time, with Montreal seemingly about to collapse again, this time with an uninjured Price and Therrien still at the helm, General Manager Marc Bergevin removed his coach.

Even though it is over a decade, there is something hilariously surreal in Julien’s personal professional career. To be the coach of the Canadiens, then to be fired and hired by arch-rival Boston, and then to be rehired by arch-rival Montreal… it reminds me of the Duke of Clarence in the Wars of the Roses who switched from the Yorkists to the Lancastrians and back to the Yorkists again. What`s next on Julien`s calendar, to be rehired by the Bruins when he gets fired by Montreal again?

The immediate task is to get the Canadiens out of their current slump and play like they did at the beginning of the season. Bergevin made major changes during the off season, most notably the trading of Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber. He certainly showed himself willing to put his own neck on the chopping block to get the Canadiens turned around.

The hiring of Julien also raises two major questions. First, are there going to be more major changes to the Canadiens roster before the trade deadline? If the trading of Subban and the hiring of Julien is not enough, what other changes have to be made? What if Julien cannot turn the team around this year?

Second, what is an acceptable finish to the Montreal season this year? The only obvious fact is that missing the playoffs is unacceptable. But how far does Julien have to take the team in the playoffs for the fans and management to agree that this was a successful year, that there was a major improvement and they are on the right track? Put up a good struggle in the first round against a superior opponent and lose? Win one round? Two rounds?

An unacceptable finish could mean sweeping changes to the roster next year like the Subban trade this year. It could mean realizing that the current set of players are just not good enough and a major rebuilding job, starting from scratch is in order. For these reasons, Montreal will be closely watched for the remainder of this season.